Sail Away!

When the fabric of your flag gets caught on the top end cap of your pole, it’s called a “sail” because just like the sail on a boat, it catches the air. In this condition, the flag becomes extremely heavy and difficult to spin. It can be virtually impossible to toss, and the messy bunch of fabric will distract the audience from the overall effect of your show. Here are some ways to avoid this problem.

Tape End Caps. First, inspect your end caps. Rubber end caps are wonderful because they allow room for weights to be added to the end of your pole, but the sticky rubber can also catch the fabric. Tape over the entire end cap with electrical tape. The tape has a slick surface and reduces the chance that the flag will get caught. Consider using a tape that matches the color of the fabric at the top of your flag to help the end cap blend into the silk while spinning. Replace the tape every few weeks if it starts to get rough or worn. Worn plastic end caps can also catch the silk, so do your best to avoid hitting your end caps on the ground.

Check Your Casing. Next, make sure your silk is attached neatly to the pole. The seam along the casing should be straight, not twisted around the pole.

Avoid Pathway Problems. Finally, if you get a sail repeatedly at the same point in the routine, you might have a pathway problem. Make sure you aren’t moving the end cap directly into the silk when you change directions while spinning. Most of the time, you can move the tip of the pole slightly forward or slightly back as it passes the fabric to avoid getting tangled.

Fix Issues Quickly. Even with careful preparation, challenging performance conditions such as strong winds can lead to a sail. If all else fails and you get a sail, try to fix it as discreetly as possible. A quick tug to the fabric near the tab (where the flag is taped in the center of the pole) is usually all it takes. Just work quickly, don’t let it affect your quality of performance, and send that sail away!

About author

Catina Anderson

Catina Anderson has been involved in the marching arts for almost 30 years, first as a performer and then as an instructor. She is the founder/editor of, a website for color guard coaches. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Towson University and a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.

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